Rookie Trevor Booker is making a name for himself with Washington Wizards

"[The Wizards] just want me to be tough, aggressive, bring a lot of energy and bring some character to the team," said Trevor Booker, center, who is averaging 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in summer league. (Laura Rauch/associated Press)
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By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 16, 2010

LAS VEGAS -- The Washington Wizards almost immediately dubbed top overall draft pick John Wall the "Game Changer," a moniker that hangs from Verizon Center's facade on Sixth Street NW and is plastered on the team's promotional materials.

Wall, though, isn't the only Wizards rookie taken in the first round with a catchy nickname. And while the name scouts have quietly given Trevor Booker -- "Grown-Ass Man" -- won't likely make its way onto official posters, it's just as descriptive as Wall's.

The left-handed Booker, who stands a chiseled 6 feet 7 and 240 pounds, looks like an adult. He isn't growing into his body -- that already happened at Clemson, where Booker added 25 pounds over four seasons. He has a college degree, and is the first Wizards first-round pick to have spent four years in college since Juan Dixon in 2002.

More importantly, while the team's recent top draft picks have occasionally been cited for inconsistency and an unwillingness to do the dirty work, Booker can't stop talking about those very things.

"They just want me to be tough, aggressive, bring a lot of energy and bring some character to the team," Booker said Thursday afternoon, before the Wizards played their third NBA Summer League game. "Players are brought into the league for different things, and I know my role, so that's what I'm gonna do."

Booker was mostly silent Thursday night, but led by Wall, the Wizards defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 88-82, to run their summer record to 3-0.

Washington scored the game's first 17 points and never trailed, with Wall finishing with 21 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. It was the rookie's second double-double of the week, though he made just 4 of 19 shots. Cartier Martin led the Wizards with 23 points, and JaVale McGee added 18 on 9-of-10 shooting.

The summer league is rarely a perfect laboratory to measure NBA skills, and Booker certainly hasn't stolen Wall's headlines. He averaged 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in his first two games, making all eight of his field goal attempts, including a pair of flashy dunks. But during a scrimmage with Portland on Wednesday, Booker got teammates out of their seats not by scoring, but with a couple of gritty plays, tearing down a rebound with one arm and swatting a layup attempt out of bounds.

"He's a guy who can give us a lot of energy, and that's what we need," said Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell, who is coaching the summer league team. "We didn't have a lot of energy on our bench last year, but this year we've got a couple guys who can bring that energy for us."

Virtually every member of the front office has said something along those lines after the team traded two picks to Minnesota for Booker, who was selected with the 23rd pick. Coach Flip Saunders has talked about changing the culture on a team that was occasionally "pushed around" last season, and President Ernie Grunfeld told season ticket holders the team added "some more physicality" with Booker, Kirk Hinrich and others.

It isn't as if Booker is unskilled, of course. Over the course of a school-record 134 straight starts at Clemson, he became one of just eight ACC players to rank in his school's top five in both scoring and rebounds. He also joined Tim Duncan as the only ACC players with 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 blocks and 200 assists.

"He can pop and shoot, and he's athletic, so when he gets around the basket he can finish," Wall said.

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